Picking a Domain Name for Your Website

In SEOmoz’s “Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009“, respondents reported that having a keyword in the domain name was of high importance in ranking for that keyword in on-page SEO factors.  Most of the time, the domain of your website was picked long ago (most likely using your company name) and that’s OK.  It is definitely not worth risking your current rankings and authority to have a brand new domain for your site; the same goes for buying a new one and redirecting all of the pages on your old domain to it.  However, if you find yourself in the position of starting a new website, here are some tips to consider when picking the URL:

Start with Your Keyword List

If you haven’t already done your keyword research, do it now.  This will help you target the keywords that will represent your business and the terms that people will find you for.  A marketing and communications office who specializes in PR and wants to be found for terms such as “digital pr”, “online pr”, “online reputation”, etc. might want to play around with some of these variations to find a phrase that would also work as their domain.  You can go to a place like Network Solutions to see which URLs are available to purchase.

Keep It Short

A shorter web address will be easier to fit on all of your offline marketing materials, and it will be easier for people to remember when they are searching for you online.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at top keywords bringing people to a website in Google Analytics, and there is a variation of the domain name being used, or even the actual web address typed into the search engine.

Be Descriptive

If you take my advice and start out by using your keyword list, you’ve already got this one nailed.  A domain name like yellowandpurple.com would not indicate to someone that this website sells used DVDs.  Something like useddvdsonline.com would be an obvious better choice.  Think of picking a new domain like brainstorming your keywords: it should be terms that describe your business that people will find you for.

Shouldn’t My Domain Be My Company Name?

The whole idea behind SEO is to help the people who don’t know your business name (or may not even know you exist) find you.  If you can get some help in rankings for one of your targeted terms with your domain name, why not use that to your advantage?  You will still be able to be found by a search on your company name, since you have your name throughout the content of your site (and it’s not very often that you will compete for your own company name).

If the process of keyword research and the fundamentals of SEO leave you a bit befuddled, please feel free to join me for my upcoming webinar on What You Need to Know About SEO.